Shadrach Woods (1928-1973)

An American architect and urban planner, Shadrach Woods was a student of Le Corbusier and worked extensively throughout North Africa, France, Germany and New York City on projects ranging from low-cost housing developments to university campuses. Also highly regarded as a critic and theorist, Woods taught at Harvard and Yale and lectured and published widely. The collection represents the span of Woods’ life and career through papers, photographs, architectural drawings, writings, and published materials. A small group of materials documents his childhood and education through personal papers and photographs. However, the bulk of the collections relates to his professional work and collaborations.

Born in Yonkers, New York, Woods was schooled in engineering at New York University and in literature and philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. Though never trained as an architect, he joined the Paris office of Le Corbusier in 1948. Assigned to the Unité d'Habitation project then under construction in Marseille, Woods collaborated with the Greek architect George Candilis, with whom he would later form a lasting partnership.


With Candilis and the engineer Vladimir Bodiansky, Woods designed and built housing throughout North Africa during his tenure as head of the Casablanca office of ATBAT-Afrique. Architectural solutions developed during the course of this work led to their winning proposal for a low-cost housing competition in France in 1954. Woods and Candilis joined with the Yugoslavian architect Alexis Josic to create the firm Candilis Josic Woods in 1956. Among the firm's major built projects are the development of the quarter of Le Mirail in Toulouse in France and, with Manfred Schiedhelm, the Free University in Berlin.

Simultaneously, Woods participated in the proceedings of Team X, a group of architects that emerged from the meetings of CIAM in the postwar years. He published numerous essays on urban themes, including explanations of his concepts of "stem" and "web," and participated in the Milan Triennale at the invitation of Italian architect and fellow Team X member Giancarlo de Carlo.

After the breakup of his partnership with Candilis and Josic in 1969, Woods settled in New York City. He taught and lectured at architecture schools throughout the United States. He also continued to work as an architect and urban planner until his untimely death in 1973. His book The Man in the Street: A Polemic on Urbanism was published posthumously by Penguin in 1975.

The collection represents the span of Woods’ life and career, beginning with personal papers and photographs from his childhood and education. Black-and-white snapshots portray Woods with Le Corbusier and Candilis on the worksite of the Marseille Unité (1948-1952).


Architectural drawings relating to ATBAT-Afrique projects, most notably the apartment buildings in the Carrières Centrales district of Casablanca (1951-1953), are complemented by documents relating to housing projects in Iran (1956) and the Caribbean (1956-1960).

The award-winning schematic proposal for the Opération Million housing competition (1954) in France is represented, as well as drawings and photographs of suburban projects built on this model throughout the country (Le Blanc-Mesnil, 1956; Bobigny, 1959-1960; Marseille La Viste, 1959).

The firm’s first experiment in extending an existing city is represented by drawings, photographs and slides related to Bagnols-sur-Cèze (1956-1960) in the south of France. Drawings and photographs of models for similar but unrealized proposals for Caen, France (1961), and Bilbao, Spain (1962), supplement Woods’ manuscripts exploring his concept of the “stem” as a system of urban organization.


The “stem” achieved its fullest expression in built form in the fractal-like design of the large housing complex Le Mirail in Toulouse, France, (1960-1964), another urban extension project represented in the collection through drawings and photographs.

German projects represented in the collection include the innovative proposal for the reconstruction of the Römerberg quarter of central Frankfurt (1963) and the revolutionary mat building for the Berlin Free University (1963-1973), along with an apartment block in the Markisches Viertel district of Berlin (1967-1972) and a competition entry for a housing development in Karlsruhe (1970). Many of these projects utilized the concept of the “web," an organizational system developed by Woods in several manuscripts in the collection.

Other highlights related to assorted projects in France during this period include drawings from a proposal for a ski resort in the Vallées des Belleville (1962), a collaboration with Charlotte Perriand and Jean Prouvé; drawings and photographs of the Benedictine convent built in St. Julien L’Ars, near Poitiers (1964-1965); portfolios related to a schematic plan for the development of the Parisian suburbs, known as Paris Nord (1965); presentation panels and booklets from a project for regional development in Bresse-Revermont (1967), identified by the acronym CENECA; and drawings and panels from a proposed renovation for the Bonne Nouvelle quarter of Paris (1967).


The collection features materials related to the controversial 14th Triennale di Milano, held in 1968 with the theme of “the greater number," including drawings related to Woods’ installation and objects and panels from the exhibition. Drafts of exhibit texts supplement manuscripts for lectures, articles and his book The Man in the Street (Penguin Books, 1975), providing a portrait of Woods as a teacher, thinker and writer.

Correspondence, clippings and audio recordings document his relationships with institutions ranging from CIAM and Team X to Harvard and Yale Universities to the Fluxus movement in contemporary art. Books from his personal library provide a glimpse of Woods’ personal and professional interests, including the nascent environmentalist movement and the precarious state of the contemporary city.

Woods’ final years in New York City were devoted to preparing a study for the planned Lower Manhattan Expressway (1967-1970), proposing the transformation of SoHo into a light manufacturing district (1970), and designing low-cost housing, including a development at Frederick Douglass Circle (1970). These final projects appear in diagrams, drawings and draft texts spread throughout the collection.

This collection was donated by Val Woods, Shadrach’s colleague and companion, who held the materials until 2004. Gabriel Feld of the Rhode Island School of Design completed a preliminary inventory of part of the collection in the late 1990s. Additional materials and research have been collected and donated by Columbia doctoral students in the spring of 2005.

Shadrach Woods' installation at the 14th Milan Triennale, 1968. Shadrach Woods' installation at the 14th Milan Triennale, 1968.
Berlin Free University, circa 1974. Berlin Free University, circa 1974.